Primal Fear (10/13/12)

Primal FearMovie Two Hundred Thirty One

After an altar boy is accused of murder, a defense attorney struggles with winning the case and finding the truth in Primal Fear.

Martin Vail (Richard Gere) is a hotshot Chicago defense attorney that will do anything to be in the public eye and also to get his high-paying clients acquitted. Vail sees that an altar boy named Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton) has been accused of brutally killing an archbishop and is on the run from police. Vail decides to take up Stampler’s case pro-bono, knowing the publicity will be worth it. Aaron, a soft spoken southern boy seems completely incapable of murder and says he had nothing to do with the archbishop’s killing, despite being found covered in his blood. He is adamant that there was a third man in the room with them that committed the crime. After interviews with a psychologist (Frances McDormand), it’s discovered that Aaron has a second personality named Roy and that Roy is who really killed the archbishop. It’s up to Vail to win the case and also find out what is really going on with Aaron/Roy.

The reason for my wanting to watch Primal Fear again came about from browsing the Internet for memorable endings to films. Primal Fear happens to be on a number of these lists and with good reason. I remembered the ending but had forgotten most of the actual plot leading up to that point and decided to rewatch this gripping thriller.

Primal Fear is the movie that brought us the enormous talent of Edward Norton front and center, it was his first major acting gig. As far as I’m concerned, Norton blows the role out of the water. He does such a tremendous job, basically shifting between two completely opposing characters, sometimes in the same scene and doesn’t miss a beat. It seems like Norton doesn’t get much praise but he’s one of the best actors in the business in my mind. I’ve always been lukewarm about Gere (though I do love me some Mothman Prophecies), but he didn’t bug me too much. Laura Linney, who plays the prosecuting attorney, is fantastic as always.

The biggest drive that Primal Fear has, however, is the story. At times it gets a bit bogged down by the legal side of things as well as some of Vail’s narcissism, but for the most part there is a driving force towards the end of the trail and the truth behind the case. It’s a film that keeps you guessing until the very end and the payoff is worth every minute. Even knowing the ending of Primal Fear doesn’t spoil the experience but it does make the slow parts of the film seem slower. If you haven’t seen Primal Fear yet and miraculously haven’t ran afoul of spoilers, check it out.

I give it 4 slackjawed Edward Nortons out of 5.

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Moonrise Kingdom (7/4/12) & (11/14/12)

Movie One Hundred Fifty Five and Two Hundred Sixty One

Set in New England in 1965, Moonrise Kingdom is the story of two young lovers that don’t fit in with others and decide to run away together as the rest of the island sets out in search of them.

At the khaki scout camp, led by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), they discover a scout has escaped. The scout is young Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and we learn that he has run away from camp to be with his love, a young girl named Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). Suzy lives on the island with her parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and younger brothers but doesn’t fit in with the other kids. Suzy and Sam had met several years prior and had remained in touch via letter. After the two run away, the entire khaki scout camp, the Bishops, policeman (Bruce Willis), and other set out to rescue the young lovers.

Moonrise Kingdom is one of the most stylistic movies I’ve ever seen, even more than Wes Anderson’s other films. The color palette is heavy on yellows and browns but everything still feels campy and awesome. I have long found Anderson’s work to be a bit hit or miss, and Moonrise Kingdom is easily the film I think where his unique brand shines the brightest. The quirky characters, the motifs, the sets, the props, the color palates, the score…Everything works wonderfully here and creates a film so full of wonder and amazement.

Both child leads are non-actors starring in their first feature, which is incredibly impressive given their performances. They both give deadpan deliveries, which in the case of Sam Shakusky, I thought gave Moonrise Kingdom most of its laughs. The entire cast is wonderful. Who in their right mind could complain about a film with Bill Murray, Edward Norton, and Bruce Willis together?

If you have any preconceived notions of what a Wes Anderson film entails, Moonrise Kingdom will not change your mind, but it’s almost as if Anderson has taken his style and cranked it to the maximum and the end results work better than most of his other films. The whimsy here is something that few other movies could ever hope of portraying. Not only is Moonrise Kingdom my favorite Anderson film to date, but it is my favorite film of 2012 thus far. Try to watch it without a smile plastered on your face the entire time.

I give it 5 seriously amazing soundtracks out of 5.

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